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Tempers frayed at Suzuka

Back-to-back races in Formula 1 at this stage of the season is tough for everyone. I am not expecting any sympathy and I do know how lucky we all are, travelling the world to watch an incredible sport that I would be watching at home anyway. All I mean is that after well over 17 weeks away from home, it’s easy to become tired and for tempers to fray.

f1  Tempers frayed at Suzuka

I mentioned the love motels in Mokpo in my last column. Well, in Suzuka things are much less bizarre, apart from the room size. My wingspan meant I could touch all four walls from any point in my room and I couldn’t open my suitcase without it taking over the bed. The absence of any shelf or cupboard meant the suitcase needed to stay open as well… Anyway, my point is that my temper was easily tested, but it seemed that, despite much more plush sleeping arrangements, the drivers were feeling a little edgy too.

After the Grand Prix I spent a lot of time listening to 15 races of pent-up anger come out.

First came the Williams drivers. On the last lap Pastor Maldonado barged past team-mate Valtteri Bottas to mug 16th place off him. No points and no real point, but he was determined to pass. Maldonado claimed he did nothing wrong and was faster, Bottas said it was unacceptable and if he hadn’t gone off track then they would have crashed. Neither driver has been able to show his skill this season and the team has only scored one point, but rookie Bottas has out-qualified race winner Maldonado 9-6 and that must hurt the Venezuelan’s pride.

Next up came Rosberg and Pérez. Rosberg is often direct and outspoken while Pérez has history with… well, almost the whole grid. It does seem, though, that Rosberg was maybe a little too quick to criticise. Pérez applied no blame to either Nico or himself for the incident in which Rosberg got his front wing clipped and Pérez got a puncture. Rosberg, on the other hand, was smarting, saying, “we all know what Pérez is like”, and “it was perfect, he got a puncture and I got nothing!”

f1  Tempers frayed at Suzuka

In amongst this chaos an ecstatic Esteban Gutiérrez was celebrating his first points in F1. He arrived at the interview pen, had a few chats and was halfway through answering my question when someone ran up to him shouting “scales, scales” and the Mexican had to run off to get weighed! He eventually came back smiling and continued to explain why he’s improved and how much he has been learning in his first season. It was the perfect time for a frustrated Rosberg to congratulate Gutiérrez, but to also fire a little shot across his bows, explaining – by the looks of his hand movements – to be careful about a move the Mexican had made. The Sauber driver gracefully accepted his lesson and continued his way round the interview area.

It is no surprise that things have become tense. It is at this time of year when many drivers are under pressure and have a limited number of races and, in some cases, laps in which to prove themselves. You can also factor in back-to-back races, jet lag and a crazy media schedule.

On Wednesday between Korea and heading to Suzuka, I spent an afternoon with Sebastian Vettel and an evening with Jenson Button filming for the BBC.

Vettel had been followed and filmed round Tokyo and then did an event for Infiniti to 500 fans at Nissan HQ in Yokohama. Button’s was a bit more intense although he described it as an “easy day when it comes to McLaren”.

f1  Tempers frayed at Suzuka

In the three hours I spent with him there were four magazine interviews, a photo shoot, two personal appearances, several sponsor commitments, handing over an award at the Japan Motor Racing Hall of Fame, two clothing changes and a location change (although I did get to zoom off with him through the streets of Tokyo in a McLaren 12C so that wasn’t too bad).

A wise paddock owl always tells me, “never feel sorry for a Formula 1 driver. Never!”, when I discuss whether drivers deserve to lose their seat or when they are beaten up on by the media. The owl is right. Especially when they stay in hotel rooms big enough to open a suitcase and are definitely not sitting anywhere near me in economy as I write this!

On a sad note I do want to finish off by mentioning Maria di Villota who died last week. She was a wonderful girl with boundless energy and an impressive vigour for life both before and after her accident. In her short time in the paddock she made a big impression on many and I for one will miss her.

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f1  Tempers frayed at Suzuka

Add your comments

16 comments on Tempers frayed at Suzuka

  1. Mitchel, 15 October 2013 15:36

    Great insight as always, thank you.

    Does that wise owl have terrible taste in shirts?

  2. Rich Ambroson, 15 October 2013 15:59

    NIco is right about Perez.

  3. 1959, 15 October 2013 16:31

    This is a different Nico Rosberg to the one that weaves all over he track whenever a faster driver comes up to pass him? Yes Perez does the same but this is just Rosberg trying to play mind games. Next time, hit him harder Sergio!

  4. Carlos Sordo, 15 October 2013 19:34

    Nico its not rigth about Pérez , he angry and desesperate …

  5. Rich Ambroson, 16 October 2013 00:57

    Well, GP winner and GP2 champion Rosberg is absolutely correct about Perez, no matter what one’s opinions of Rosberg’s driving. If it weren’t for Carlos Slim’s money, Perez would never have remained in F1.

    How a no-hoper like Perez is in F1 while a talented and popular driver like Kobayashi gets left out, I’ll never understand. As I’ve noted in other threads, F1 is not a meritocracy at all. Otherwise, Koby would be racing in F1, and Perez would be selling cell phones.

  6. Rich Ambroson, 16 October 2013 00:58

    “hit him harder sergio!”????

    Must be a Senna fan writing that one…

  7. Alex Milligan, 16 October 2013 02:10

    Interesting to hear comments regarding Nico R’s driving. I thought weaving and blocking was illegal but Nico seems to get away with almost every race – why is that?

  8. chrisb, 16 October 2013 07:38

    great to read your thoughts Lee, wondering what the outcome of the tif will be with the Williams boys? Frank has slipped up several times letting drivers move on – but its nice to see Bottas continue to develop so hopefully he will retain his seat for next year

  9. John McCormick, 16 October 2013 09:59

    Hahaha, LOVE this line from Rosberg: “we all know what Pérez is like… it was perfect, he got a puncture and I got nothing!”

    As a Kimi fan it’s particularly enjoyable to see Perez being slated by fellow drivers and pundits alike, with talk of him being dropped lingering too. He was overrated by a casuals last season due to a couple of standout performances in amongst anonymous weekends. He simply doesn’t understand or want to understand how to race cleanly. There’s something not right in the way (many) South American racers are nurtured.

  10. John Read, 16 October 2013 17:35

    I remember watching Perez at Albert Park in his first GP meeting and thinking “a star is born”.

    Sadly I think that Monaco crash knocked him about.

    I am still keeping an open mind about Perez particularly observing that the current McLaren seems a poor imitation of what an F1 McLaren should be.

  11. Carlos Sanchez, 17 October 2013 08:38

    …’must be a S fan writing that one’ ? Mmmh, well that kind of attitude is exactly the one expressed by Nico towards Perez at the end of the race, so you don’t have to go as far, suffice it to stick with Rosberg’s (not the father) dumb remark. Nervousness plays silly games on people, no doubt… Poor Nico, as Perez, but he has part of the blame as well.

  12. Rich Ambroson, 17 October 2013 16:00

    I don’t think Nico is at fault for Perez’s hopelessness as an F1 racer. But hey, I’ll enjoy the Woking team’s being saddled with that deadweight. Makes it harder for them to be a challenger, that’s for sure.

  13. 1959 Impala, 17 October 2013 16:07

    ….just trying to make the point that, from a purely personal perspective, I am not a fan of drivers who react to the first sight of a distant spec in their mirrors by zig zagging up the track to prevent a risk of a pass. That is not a “skill” in my world. Perez does it, so does Rosberg hence the hollow laugh resulting from his latest moaning . If they take each other out next time it wouldn’t bother me too much.
    ……and no, not a Senna fan

  14. Jackal, 19 October 2013 14:03

    Unfortunately Sergio does not possess a level head nor decent race-craft. He has gotten into far too many incidents this season … most of them were absolutely avoidable. There are already rumblings that McLaren is looking to replace him, however if they do retain him for 2014 it will be a make or break season for the Mexican. You simply have to look at the fact that Button has scored 60 points so far and Sergio only 23 to realize that he has it all to do if he expects to remain with a top team in F1.

  15. Ray In Toronto, Canada (Ray T (The other one)), 21 October 2013 21:02

    I think Checo went over-board when he decided to take into account Whitmarsh’s early season criticism:

    “Elbows Out”, remember?

    Since then, Checo’s often been all elbows.

    Elbowing everyone left, right and centre.

    There are times when Perez is right with Button – almost trying to elbow his way passed the senior Englishman…but, then, there are large chunks of the races where he doesn’t get the best out of his package and struggles to remain consistent – or as consitent as as Button.

    The pace either falls away or he gets involved in a tangle because his spatial awareness isn’t all there or he cooks his tyres while, at the same time, Jenson starts to assert himself after ‘playing himself in’ following early stints of ‘saving tyres’.

    Needlesss to say, if Perez is on the grid, then why isn’t Kobayashi?

    Answer: Pesos vs lack of Yen.

    Shame really.

  16. Joe Machado, 25 October 2013 00:57

    Here is the million dollar question:- Without PDVSA money would anyone hire Maldonado? I don’t think so, but hey what do I know?

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